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Susanne Hiller-Sturmhöfel, Ph.D., is a scientific research editor of Alcohol wellness & research World. Andrzej Bartke, Ph.D., is professor and chairman the physiology at southerly Illinois University college of Medicine, Carbondale, Illinois
Unless otherwise listed in the text, every material appearing in this newspaper is in the general public domain and also may it is in reproduced without permission. Citation of the resource is appreciated.

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A plethora of hormone regulate countless of the body’s functions, consisting of growth and development, metabolism, electrolyte balances, and reproduction. Numerous glands transparent the body produce hormones. The hypothalamus produces several releasing and inhibiting hormones the act top top the pituitary gland, stimulating the release of pituitary hormones. That the pituitary hormones, several act on other glands situated in various regions of the body, whereas other pituitary hormone directly affect their target organs. Various other hormone-producing glands transparent the body encompass the adrenal glands, i beg your pardon primarily develop cortisol; the gonads (i.e., ovaries and also testes), which develop sex hormones; the thyroid, i m sorry produces thyroid hormone; the parathyroid, which produces parathyroid hormone; and the pancreas, which produces insulin and glucagon. Countless of this hormones are part of regulatory hormone cascades involving a hypothalamic hormone, one or an ext pituitary hormones, and one or more target gland hormones.

Keywords: endocrine function, hormones, hypothalamus, pituitary gland, gonad function, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, biochemical mechanism, organic feedback, organic regulation, hypothalamus-pituitary axis, pituitary-adrenal axis, pituitary-thyroid axis, literature review

For the body to function properly, its various parts and organs must communicate with each various other to ensure that a constant internal setting (i.e., homeostasis) is maintained. Because that example, neither the body temperature nor the level of salts and minerals (i.e., electrolytes) in the blood need to fluctuate past preset limits. Communication among various regions of the body also is vital for enabling the biology to respond appropriately to any changes in the internal and also external environments. Two systems assist ensure communication: the nervous system and also the hormone (i.e., neuroendocrine) system. The nervous device generally permits rapid transmission (i.e., within fractions of seconds) the information between different human body regions. Conversely, hormonal communication, which depends on the production and release of hormones from various glands and on the deliver of those hormones via the bloodstream, is better suited for instances that require an ext widespread and longer lasting regulatory actions. Thus, the two communication systems enhance each other. In addition, both solution interact: Stimuli native the nervous system can influence the release of particular hormones and also vice versa.

Generally speaking, hormones control the growth, development, and also metabolism that the body; the electrolyte composition of bodily fluids; and reproduction. This short article provides review of the hormone systems involved in those regulation processes. The article an initial summarizes few of the basic characteristics of hormone-mediated communication within the body, then reviews the assorted glands associated in those processes and the significant hormones lock produce. For more in-depth info on those hormones, the reader should consult endocrinology textbooks (e.g., Constanti et al. 1998; Wilson et al. 1998). Finally, the short article presents miscellaneous endocrine equipment in i beg your pardon hormones developed in numerous organs cooperate to attain the preferred regulatory effects. The discussions emphasis primarily ~ above the system responses in normal, healthy and balanced people. For information regarding alcohol’s results on few of the hormone systems, the reader is referred to subsequent write-ups in this issue of Alcohol health & research World.

What space Hormones?

Hormones room molecules the are developed by endocrine glands, consisting of the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, adrenal glands, gonads, (i.e., testes and ovaries), thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, and also pancreas (see number 1). The hatchet “endocrine” means that in response to specific stimuli, the assets of those glands room released into the bloodstream.1 The hormones climate are lugged via the blood to their target cells. Part hormones have actually only a few specific target cells, whereas various other hormones impact numerous cell types throughout the body. The target cells because that each hormone are identified by the visibility of specific docking molecule (i.e., receptors) for the hormone the are situated either ~ above the cell surface ar or within the cell. The interaction in between the hormone and also its receptor triggers a cascade of biochemical reactions in the target cabinet that ultimately modify the cell’s duty or activity.

Mechanisms of Action

Several class of hormones exist, including steroids, amino acid derivatives, and polypeptides and also proteins. Those hormone classes differ in their general molecular frameworks (e.g., size and also chemical properties). As a result of the structural differences, your mechanisms of activity (e.g., whether they can enter their target cells and also how castle modulate the activity of those cells) likewise differ. Steroids, which are produced by the gonads and component of the adrenal gland (i.e., the adrenal cortex), have actually a molecule structure similar to that of cholesterol. The molecules can go into their target cells and also interact with receptors in the liquid that fills the cabinet (i.e., the cytoplasm) or in the cell nucleus. The hormone-receptor complexes then tie to particular regions of the cell’s hereditary material (i.e., the DNA), in order to regulating the task of certain hormone-responsive genes.

Amino mountain derivatives are modified version of few of the building blocks of proteins. The thyroid gland and also another an ar of the adrenal glands (i.e., the adrenal medulla) produce this kind of hormone (i.e., the amino acid derivatives). Prefer steroids, amino mountain derivatives can enter the cell, where they interact with receptor proteins that are currently associated with certain DNA regions. The interaction modifies the activity of the influenced genes.

Polypeptide and also protein hormones are chains of amino mountain of various lengths (from three to numerous hundred amino acids). This hormones are found primarily in the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and also pancreas. In part instances, lock are derived from inactive precursors, or pro-hormones, which deserve to be cleaved right into one or more active hormones. Because of their chemical structure, the polypeptide and protein hormone cannot enter cells. Instead, they communicate with receptors on the cabinet surface. The interaction initiates biochemical changes in either the cell’s membrane or interior, eventually editing the cell’s activity or function.

Regulation that Hormone Activity

To preserve the body’s homeostasis and respond as necessary to transforms in the environment, hormone production and also secretion have to be tightly controlled. To attain this control, plenty of bodily functions are regulated not by a single hormone however by numerous hormones that control each various other (see number 2). Because that example, for numerous hormone systems, the hypothalamus secretes so-called publication hormones, which are transported via the blood come the pituitary gland. There, the releasing hormone induce the production and also secretion of pituitary hormones, which subsequently are transported by the blood to your target glands (e.g., the adrenal glands, gonads, or thyroid). In those glands, the communication of the pituitary hormones through their particular target cells results in the release of the hormones that at some point influence the organs targeted by the hormone cascade.

Constant feedback native the target glands to the hypothalamus and also pituitary gland ensures the the activity of the hormone system connected remains within appropriate boundaries. Thus, in many cases, an adverse feedback mechanisms exist whereby hormones released by the target glands impact the pituitary gland and/or hypothalamus (see number 2). When particular predetermined blood level of those hormones are reached, the hypothalamus and/or the pituitary ceases hormone release, thereby turning off the cascade. In some instances, a so-called short-loop feedback occurs, in which pituitary hormones directly act back on the hypothalamus.

The sensitivity v which these an adverse feedback systems run (i.e., the target hormone levels that are required to turn off hypothalamic or pituitary hormone release) can adjust at various physiological states or step of life. For example, the gradual reduction in sensitivity the the hypothalamus and pituitary to negative feedback through gonadal steroid hormone plays an important role in sexual maturation.

Although negative feedback is much more common, part hormone solution are regulated by confident feedback mechanisms, in i m sorry a target gland hormone acts earlier on the hypothalamus and/or pituitary to boost the release of hormones that stimulate the cheap of the target gland hormone. One such device occurs throughout a woman’s term period: raising estrogen level in the blood temporarily stimulate, quite than inhibit, hormone relax from the pituitary and also hypothalamus, thereby more increasing estrogen levels and eventually leading to ovulation. Such a mechanism requires a certain threshold level, however, at which the positive feedback loop is turned turn off in stimulate to preserve a secure system.

Hormones developed by the major Hormone-Producing (i.e., Endocrine) Glands and also Their main Functions

Endocrine GlandHormonePrimary Hormone Function
HypothalamusCorticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)Stimulates the pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH)Stimulates the pituitary to relax luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH)Stimulates the pituitary to release thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH)Stimulates the release of development hormone (GH) from the pituitary
SomatostatinInhibits the release of GH indigenous the pituitary
DopamineInhibits the relax of prolactin from the pituitary
Anterior pituitary glandACTHStimulates the relax of hormone from the adrenal cortex
LHIn women, stimulates the production of sex hormones (i.e., estrogens) in the ovaries and also during ovulation; in men, stimulates testosterone manufacturing in the testes
FSHIn women, stimulates follicle development; in men, stimulates sperm production
TSHStimulates the release of thyroid hormone
GHPromotes the body’s growth and also development
ProlactinControls milk production (i.e., lactation)
Posterior pituitary gland1VasopressinHelps control the body’s water and electrolyte levels
OxytocinPromotes uterine contraction throughout labor and also activates milk ejection in nursing women
Adrenal cortexCortisolHelps manage carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism; protects versus stress
AldosteroneHelps control the body’s water and electrolyte regulation
TestesTestosteroneStimulates development of the male reproductive organs, sperm production, and also protein anabolism
OvariesEstrogen (produced through the follicle)Stimulates breakthrough of the mrs reproductive organs
Progesterone (produced by the body luteum)Prepares uterus because that pregnancy and also mammary glands because that lactation
Thyroid glandThyroid hormone (i.e., thyroxine and also triiodothyronine )Controls metabolic procedures in all cells
CalcitoninHelps regulate calcium management (i.e., lowers calcium levels in the blood)
Parathyroid glandParathyroid hormone (PTH)Helps manage calcium line (i.e., rises calcium level in the blood)
PancreasInsulinHelps manage carbohydrate management (i.e., lowers blood sugar levels)
GlucagonHelps control carbohydrate management (i.e., boosts blood sugar levels)

The Hypothalamus and Its Hormones

The hypothalamus is a small region located within the brain that controls plenty of bodily functions, including eating and also drinking, sex-related functions and behaviors, blood pressure and heart rate, human body temperature maintenance, the sleep-wake cycle, and emotional states (e.g., fear, pain, anger, and pleasure). Hypothalamic hormones play pivotal functions in the regulation of countless of those functions.

Because the hypothalamus is part of the main nervous system, the hypothalamic hormones actually are developed by nerve cells (i.e., neurons). In addition, since signals from other neurons deserve to modulate the release of hypothalamic hormones, the hypothalamus serves together the significant link between the nervous and also endocrine systems. Because that example, the hypothalamus receives info from higher brain centers that respond come various eco-friendly signals. Consequently, hypothalamic role is influenced by both the external and internal environments as well as by hormone feedback. Stimuli native the external setting that indirectly influence hypothalamic function include the light-dark cycle; temperature; signal from other members that the very same species; and also a wide selection of visual, auditory, olfactory, and sensory stimuli. The communication between other mind areas and also the hypothalamus, which conveys information about the inner environment, involves electrochemical signal transmission with molecules called neurotransmitters (e.g., aspartate, dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid, glutamate, norepinephrine, and serotonin). The facility interplay the the plot of assorted neurotransmitters regulates the production and also release of hormones from the hypothalamus.

The hypothalamic hormones space released into blood ship that connect the hypothalamus and also the pituitary gland (i.e., the hypothalamic-hypophyseal portal system). Due to the fact that they generally promote or inhibit the release of hormone from the pituitary gland, hypothalamic hormones are typically called releasing or inhibiting hormones. The significant releasing and inhibiting hormones encompass the following (also watch table, p. 156):

Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), i beg your pardon is component of the hormone mechanism regulating carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism as well as sodium and water balance in the body

Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which helps control sexual and reproductive functions, consisting of pregnancy and also lactation (i.e., milk production)

Thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH), i beg your pardon is component of the hormone system controlling the metabolic procedures of every cells and also which contributes come the hormone regulation the lactation

Growth hormone-releasing hormone (GHRH), i beg your pardon is critical component of the system cultivating the organism’s growth

Somatostatin, which likewise affects bone and muscle growth however has the opposite impact as the of GHRH

Dopamine, a substance that attributes primarily together a neurotransmitter but also has some hormonal effects, such together repressing lactation until it is essential after childbirth.

The Pituitary and also Its major Hormones

The pituitary (also sometimes called the hypophysis) is a gland around the dimension of a tiny marble and is situated in the brain directly listed below the hypothalamus. The pituitary gland consists of 2 parts: the anterior pituitary and also the posterior pituitary.

The Anterior Pituitary

The anterior pituitary produce several necessary hormones that either wake up target glands (e.g., the adrenal glands, gonads, or thyroid gland) to develop target gland hormones or directly influence target organs. The pituitary hormones incorporate adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH); gonadotropins; thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), also called thyrotropin; development hormone (GH); and also prolactin.

The very first three the those hormones—ACTH, gonadotropins, and also TSH—act on various other glands. Thus, ACTH stimulates the adrenal cortex to develop corticosteroid hormones—primarily cortisol—as fine as little amounts the female and also male sex hormones. The gonadotropins consist of two molecules, luteinizing hormone (LH) and also follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). These 2 hormones control the production of female and also male sex hormone in the ovaries and also testes as well as the manufacturing of the germ cells—that is, the egg cell (i.e., ova) and also sperm cells (i.e., spermatozoa). TSH stimulates the thyroid gland come produce and also release thyroid hormone. The staying two pituitary hormones, GH and also prolactin, directly influence their target organs.

Growth Hormone

GH is the most abundant of the pituitary hormones. As the surname implies, the plays a pivotal duty in controlling the body’s growth and development. Because that example, it stimulates the linear growth of the bones; disclosure the expansion of internal organs, fat (i.e., adipose) tissue, connective tissue, endocrine glands, and also muscle; and controls the advancement of the reproductive organs. Accordingly, the GH levels in the blood room highest throughout early childhood and also puberty and decrease thereafter. Nevertheless, even reasonably low GH level still may be vital later in life, and GH deficiency may contribute to part symptoms the aging.

In enhancement to that is growth-promoting role, GH affects carbohydrate, protein, and also fat (i.e., lipid) metabolism. Thus, GH rises the levels of the street glucose in the blood by to reduce glucose absorb by muscle cells and adipose tissue and also by promoting glucose manufacturing (i.e., gluconeogenesis) from precursor molecules in the liver. (These actions room opposite to those the the hormone insulin, i beg your pardon is questioned in the ar “The Pancreas and also Its Hormones,” p. 160.) GH additionally enhances the absorb of amino mountain from the blood right into cells, as well as their incorporation into proteins, and stimulates the breakdown of lipids in adipose tissue.

To elicit these various effects, GH convey the activities of numerous target organs, consisting of the liver, kidneys, bone, cartilage, bones muscle, and also adipose cells. For some of these effects, GH acts directly on the target cells. In various other cases, however, GH acts indirect by stimulating the manufacturing of a molecule called insulin-like expansion factor 1 (IGF-1) in the liver and also kidneys. The blood then transports IGF-1 come the target organs, whereby it binds to certain receptors ~ above the cells. This interaction then may cause the increased DNA production and cell department that underlie the growth process.

Two hypothalamic hormones manage GH release: (1) GHRH, which stimulates GH release, and (2) somatostatin, i m sorry inhibits GH release. This regulation mechanism additionally involves a short-loop feedback component, by which GH acts on the hypothalamus to stimulate somatostatin release. In addition, GH relax is magnified by stress, such together low blood sugar levels (i.e., hypoglycemia) or severe exercise, and by the onset of deep sleep.

Acute and also chronic alcohol intake have been shown to mitigate the levels of GH and also IGF-1 in the blood. Both impacts have to be observed in animals and also in humans. Acute alcohol administration also reduces GH cheap in solution to other stimuli that generally enhance the hormone’s release. Those deleterious impacts of alcohol may be specifically harmful come adolescents, who require GH for normal breakthrough and puberty. (For much more information on alcohol’s results on puberty and growth, see the write-up by Dees and colleagues, pp. 165–169.)


Together with other hormones, prolactin theatre a central role in the breakthrough of the mrs breast and also in the initiation and also maintenance of lactation after ~ childbirth. Prolactin’s function in men, however, is no well understood, although excessive prolactin release have the right to lead to reduced sex journey (i.e., libido) and impotence. Number of factors regulate prolactin relax from the anterior pituitary. For example, prolactin is exit in increasing amounts in an answer to the increase in estrogen level in the blood that occurs during pregnancy. In nursing women, prolactin is released in solution to suckling by the infant. Several releasing and also inhibitory components from the hypothalamus likewise control prolactin release. The most necessary of those determinants is dopamine, which has an inhibitory effect.

Alcohol intake by education women can influence lactation both through its impacts on the release of prolactin and oxytocin (see the complying with section) and through its effects on the milk-producing (i.e., mammary) glands and the ingredient of the milk. (For more information on alcohol’s impacts on lactation, see the article by Heil and also Subramanian, pp. 178–184.)

The Posterior Pituitary

The posterior pituitary does not produce its own hormones; instead, that stores 2 hormones—vasopressin and also oxytocin—that are developed by neurons in the hypothalamus. Both hormones collection at the ends of the neurons, which are located in the hypothalamus and also extend come the posterior pituitary.

Vasopressin, additionally called arginine vasopressin (AVP), plays an essential role in the body’s water and electrolyte economy. Thus, AVP relax promotes the reabsorption of water indigenous the urine in the kidneys. Through this mechanism, the body reduces urine volume and conserves water. AVP release from the pituitary is managed by the concentration of sodium in the blood as well as by blood volume and also blood pressure. Because that example, high blood press or increased blood volume results in the inhibition that AVP release. Consequently, much more water is released v the urine, and both blood pressure and also blood volume room reduced. Alcohol also has been presented to inhibit AVP release. Conversely, particular other drugs (e.g., nicotine and morphine) boost AVP release, as execute severe pain, fear, nausea, and general anesthesia, thereby resulting in lower urine production and water retention.

Oxytocin, the 2nd hormone stored in the posterior pituitary, stimulates the contractions of the uterus during childbirth. In nursing women, the hormone activates milk ejection in solution to suckling by the child (i.e., the so-called let-down reflex).

The Adrenal Glands and also Their Hormones

The adrenal glands are small structures located on peak of the kidneys. Structurally, they consist the an external layer (i.e., the cortex) and an inner layer (i.e., the medulla). The adrenal cortex produces plenty of hormones, generally corticosteroids (i.e., glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids). The cortex is also the source of little amounts that sex hormones; those amounts, however, room insignificant contrasted with the amounts normally created by the ovaries and testes. The adrenal medulla generates 2 substances—adrenaline and also noradrenaline—that space released as component of the fight-or-flight an answer to assorted stress factors.

The main glucocorticoid in people is cortisol (also dubbed hydro-cortisone), which helps manage carbohydrate, protein, and also lipid metabolism. Because that example, cortisol increases glucose levels in the blood by stimulating gluconeogenesis in the liver and also promotes the formation of glycogen (i.e., a molecule the serves as the storage type of glucose) in the liver. Cortisol also reduces glucose uptake right into muscle and also adipose tissue, thereby opposing the results of insulin. Furthermore, in various tissues, cortisol promotes protein and lipid malfunction into commodities (i.e., amino acids and glycerol, respectively) that can be provided for gluconeogenesis.

In enhancement to those metabolic activities, cortisol shows up to safeguard the body versus the deleterious results of assorted stress factors, consisting of acute trauma, major surgery, severe infections, pain, blood loss, hypoglycemia, and emotional stress. All of these stress determinants lead come drastic rises in the cortisol level in the blood. For human being in whom cortisol levels cannot boost (e.g., due to the fact that they had actually their adrenal glands removed), even mild stress have the right to be fatal. Finally, high sheep of cortisol and other corticosteroids can be offered medically to suppress tissue inflammation in response to injuries and to minimize the immune response to international molecules.

The main mineralocorticoid in human beings is aldosterone, which likewise helps manage the body’s water and electrolyte balance. The principal functions are to conserve sodium and also to excrete potassium from the body. Because that example, aldosterone promotes the reabsorption of salt in the kidney, thereby reducing water excretion and increasing blood volume. Similarly, aldosterone decreases the proportion of sodium to potassium concentration in sweat and saliva, thereby avoiding sodium ns via those routes. The result can it is in highly beneficial in warm climates, where lot sweating occurs.

In contrast to the glucocorticoids, pituitary, or hypothalamic, hormones execute not regulate aldosterone release. Instead, it is controlled primarily by an additional hormone system, the reninangiotensin system, which likewise controls kidney function. In addition, the levels of sodium and also potassium in the blood influence aldosterone levels.

The Gonads and also Their Hormones

The gonads (i.e., the ovaries and testes) serve two major functions. First, they produce the germ cell (i.e., ova in the ovaries and also spermatozoa in the testes). Second, the gonads synthesize steroid sex hormones the are important for the advancement and role of both female and male reproductive offal and second sex characteristics (e.g., the adult distribution of human body hair, such as facial hair in men) and also for pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation. Three types of sex hormone exist; each with different functions: (1) estrogens (e.g., estradiol), i m sorry exert feminizing effects; (2) progestogens (e.g., progesterone), which impact the uterus in preparation for and during pregnancy; and also (3) androgens (e.g., testosterone), which exert masculinizing effects. In addition to the reproductive functions, sex hormone play countless essential functions throughout the body. For example, they impact the management of carbohydrates and also lipids, the cardiovascular system, and bone growth and also development.


The major estrogen is estradiol, which, in addition to tiny amounts the estrone and estriol, is developed primarily in the ovaries. Other production website of estrogens incorporate the corpus luteum,2 the placenta, and the adrenal glands. In men and postmenopausal women, many estrogens current in the circulation are obtained from the counter of testicular, adrenal, and ovarian androgens. The conversion wake up in peripheral tissues, primarily adipose tissue and also skin.

The main role of estrogens is to coordinate the normal breakthrough and functioning of the woman genitalia and also breasts. Throughout puberty, estrogens encourage the growth of the uterus, breasts, and also vagina; determine the pattern of fat deposition and distribution in the human body that outcomes in the typical female shape; regulate the pubertal growth spurt and cessation of expansion at adult height; and control the advancement of an additional sexual characteristics. In adult women, the primary features of estrogens include regulating the menstrual cycle, contributing come the hormone regulation of pregnancy and also lactation, and maintaining mrs libido. (For an ext information ~ above the expression cycle and alcohol’s results on it, check out the article by Dees and colleagues, pp. 165–169. For more information ~ above alcohol’s impacts on the emerging fetus, check out the article by Gabriel and colleagues, pp. 170–177.)

During menopause, estrogen production in the ovaries ceases. The result reduction in estrogen levels leads to symptoms together as hot flashes, sweating, pounding of the love (i.e., palpitations), enhanced irritability, anxiety, depression, and also brittle skeleton (i.e., osteoporosis). The administration of estrogens (i.e., hormone instead of therapy) have the right to alleviate those symptoms and also reduce the risk of osteoporosis and coronary heart condition in postmenopausal women. In ~ the same time, however, hormone replacement treatment may increase the hazard of certain varieties of cancer (e.g., chest cancer and uterine cancer). Alcohol consumption has been presented to rise estrogen levels in the blood and also urine, even in premenopausal women that drink two drinks or much less per day (Reichman et al. 1993) and in postmenopausal women who drink much less than one drink per day (Gavaler and Van Thiel 1992). These findings imply that middle alcohol usage may assist prevent osteoporosis and also coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. Various other studies, however, have detected no consistent association between alchol consumption and also increased estrogen level (Dorgan et al. 1994; Purohit 1998). (For much more information on the results of alcohol top top postmenopausal women, see the short articles by Longnecker and also Tseng, pp. 185–189, and also Gavaler, pp. 220–227.)


The ovaries produce progestogens throughout a specific phase the the menstrual cycle and also in the placenta for many of pregnancy. Progestogens reason changes in the uterine lining in ready for pregnant and—together v estrogens—stimulate the advance of the mammary glands in the breasts in ready for lactation. The primary progestogen is progesterone.


The principal androgenic steroid is testosterone, which is secreted mostly from the testes yet also, in tiny amounts, from the adrenal glands (both in men and also women) and also from the ovaries. Its main role is to stimulate the advance and expansion of the male genital tract. In addition, testosterone has solid protein anabolic activities—that is, it promotes protein generation, which leads to raised muscle mass. The details functions the testosterone differ during various developmental stages, as follows:

In the fetus, testosterone generally ensures the development of the internal and external male genitalia

During puberty, testosterone disclosure the expansion of the masculine sex organs and is responsible for various other male developmental characteristics, such together the pubertal growth spurt and also eventual cessation of expansion at adult height; deepening of the voice; development of facial, pubic, axillary, and also body hair; and increase in muscularity and strength

In the adult male, testosterone primarily serves to maintain masculinity, libido, and sexual potency and regulate sperm production. Testosterone levels decline slightly v age, back the fall is no as drastic together the palliation in estrogen levels in women throughout menopause. (For info on alcohol’s effects on male reproduction, watch the article by Emanuele and also Emanuele, pp.195–201.)

The Thyroid and Its Hormones

The thyroid gland, which consists of 2 lobes, is located in front of the windpipe (i.e., trachea), just listed below the voice box (i.e., larynx). The gland produces 2 structurally connected hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3), that space iodinated derivatives that the amino acid tyrosine. Both hormone are jointly referred to as “thyroid hormone.” T4 constitutes about 90 percent the the hormone developed in the thyroid gland. However, T3 is a much an ext active hormone, and also most that the T4 developed by the thyroid is converted into T3 in the liver and also kidneys.

Thyroid hormone in basic serves to rise the management of almost all human body tissues. For example, thyroid hormone stimulates the production of certain proteins affiliated in warm generation in the body, a duty that is essential for preserving body temperature in cold climates. Moreover, thyroid hormone promotes several other metabolic processes entailing carbohydrates, proteins, and also lipids that aid generate the energy required because that the body’s functions. In enhancement to those metabolic effects, thyroid hormone plays crucial role in the development of the main nervous system during late fetal and also early postnatal developmental stages. Furthermore, thyroid hormone exerts one effect comparable to the of GH on regular bone growth and maturation. Finally, thyroid hormone is forced for the normal breakthrough of teeth, skin, and hair follicles and also for the functioning of the nervous, cardiovascular, and gastrointestinal systems.

In enhancement to thyroid hormone, details cells (i.e., parafollicular C cells) in the thyroid gland develop calcitonin, a hormone the helps maintain normal calcium levels in the blood. Specifically, calcitonin lowers calcium levels in the blood by to reduce the release of calcium from the bones; inhibiting the constant erosion of skeleton (i.e., bone resorption), which additionally releases calcium; and also inhibiting the reabsorption the calcium in the kidneys. Those impacts are opposite come those the parathyroid hormone (PTH), i beg your pardon is disputed in the adhering to section.

The Parathyroid Glands and also Their Hormones

The parathyroid glands are four pea-sized bodies located behind the thyroid gland that create PTH. This hormone rises calcium level in the blood, helping to preserve bone quality and an enough supply that calcium, i beg your pardon is required for many functions throughout the human body (e.g., muscle movement and also signal transmission within cells). Specifically, PTH causes reabsorption of calcium from and also excretion the phosphate in the urine. PTH also promotes the relax of save on computer calcium indigenous the bones and also bone resorption, both the which increase calcium levels in the blood. Finally, PTH stimulates the absorption of calcium from the food in the gastrointestinal tract. Regular with PTH’s main role in calcium metabolism, the release of this hormone is not managed by pituitary hormones yet by the calcium levels in the blood. Thus, low calcium level stimulate PTH release, conversely, high calcium level suppress it.

Many that the features of PTH need or are helped with by a substance dubbed 1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol, a derivative the vitamin D. In addition, many other hormones are involved in regulating the body’s calcium levels and bone metabolism, including estrogens, glucocorticoids, and growth hormone. (For an ext information top top the hormonal regulate of bone and calcium metabolism and on alcohol’s results on those systems, see the article by Sampson, pp. 190–194.)

The Pancreas and also Its Hormones

The kidneys is situated in the abdomen, behind the stomach, and also serves two distinctly different functions. First, the acts together an exocrine organ, since the bulk of pancreatic cells create various digestive enzyme that are secreted into the gut and which are crucial for the reliable digestion of food. Second, the pancreas serves as an endocrine organ, because certain cell swarm (i.e., the Islets of Langerhans) create two hormones—insulin and also glucagon—that are released right into the blood and play pivotal roles in blood glucose regulation.


Insulin is created in the beta cell of the Islets that Langerhans. Its main purpose is to lower blood glucose levels; in fact, insulin is the just blood sugar-lowering hormone in the body. Come this end, insulin disclosure the formation of storage develops of energy (e.g., glycogen, proteins, and also lipids) and suppresses the failure of those save on computer nutrients. Accordingly, the target organs of insulin are primarily those that are committed for energy storage, such as the liver, muscles, and adipose tissue. Specifics insulin has actually the complying with metabolic effects:

Promotes glucose uptake into cells and also its conversion right into glycogen, stimulates the failure of glucose, and also inhibits gluconeogenesis

Stimulates the transport of amino acids into cells and protein synthetic in muscle cells, in order to lowering the level of amino acids available for gluconeogenesis in the liver

Increases fat synthesis in the liver and adipose tissue, in order to lowering the level of glycerol, which likewise can offer as a starting material because that gluconeogenesis.

The release of insulin is managed by assorted factors, consisting of blood glucose levels; various other islet hormones (e.g., glucagon); and, indirectly, other hormones that transform blood glucose levels (e.g., GH, glucocorticoids, and thyroid hormone).


The second blood-sugar–regulating pancreatic hormone is glucagon, i m sorry is created in the alpha cells of the Islets the Langerhans. Glucagon rises blood glucose levels; accordingly, its key actions usually are opposite to those that insulin. Because that example, glucagon increases glycogen failure and gluconeogenesis in the liver and also the breakdown of lipids and also proteins. The relax of glucagon is regulated by many of the same components as is insulin’s release, yet sometimes v the opposite effect. Thus, rise in blood glucose levels stimulates insulin release yet inhibits glucagon release.

A carefully tuned balance in between the tasks of insulin and glucagon is important for maintaining blood sugar levels. Accordingly, disturbances of that balance, such together an insulin deficiency or an inability of the body to answers adequately come insulin, an outcome in significant disorders, such as diabetes mellitus. (For much more information on diabetes and also on alcohol’s effects on insulin, glucagon, and also the administration of diabetes, view the short article by Emanuele and also colleagues, pp. 211–219.)

Hormone Systems

As this write-up has suggested in relenten the miscellaneous endocrine glands and also their hormones, some hormones are controlled directly by the metabolic pathways the they influence. For example, blood sugar levels directly regulate insulin and also glucagon release by the pancreas, and calcium levels in the blood regulate PTH release. Conversely, numerous hormones created by target glands space regulated by pituitary hormones, which in turn are regulated by hypothalamic hormones. Examples of such regulatory hormonal cascades include the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, and also the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroidal (HPT) axis, i m sorry are explained briefly in the complying with sections (see number 3, p.162).

Schematic depiction of the HPA, HPG, and HPT axes. Because that each system, the hypothalamus secretes releasing hormone (i.e., CRH, GnRH, and also TRH) that act ~ above the pituitary gland. In an answer to those stimuli, the pituitary gland release ACTH, gonadotropins (i.e., LH and also FSH), or TSH. ACTH activates the adrenal glands to release cortisol, i beg your pardon induces metabolic effects. Cortisol also acts back on the hypothalamus and pituitary gland by an unfavorable feedback. LH and FSH in ladies stimulate the ovaries to create estrogens and progesterone. Relying on the step of the menstrual cycle, those hormones act ago on the hypothalamus and also pituitary gland in one of two people a stimulatory or inhibitory manner. In men, LH stimulates the testes to release testosterone, i m sorry feeds ago on the hypothalamus and pituitary. Finally, TSH stimulates the thyroid gland to produce the thyroid hormones T3 and also T4, both the which increase cell metabolism and also feed earlier on the hypothalamus and pituitary.

NOTE: = stimulates; = inhibits; ACTH = adrenocorticotropic hormone; CRH = corticotropin-releasing hormone; FSH = follicle-stimulating hormone; GnRH = gonadotropin-releasing hormone; HPA = hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal; HPG = hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal; HPT = hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid; LH = luteinizing hormone; T3 = triiodothyronine; T4 = thyroxine; TRH = thyrotropin-releasing hormone; TSH = thyroid-stimulating hormone.

The HPA Axis

Activation that the HPA axis, i m sorry regulates various metabolic functions, is initiated through the relax of CRH native the hypothalamus. This release occurs in response to assorted stimuli, including nearly any type of physics or emotional stress; throughout the typical sleep-wake cycle; and also in an answer to particular neurotransmitters. CRH climate stimulates the anterior pituitary to develop ACTH. (In addition to CRH, AVP native the hypothalamus additionally can wake up ACTH release). ACTH, in turn, activates adrenal hormone production, mostly of cortisol, i beg your pardon mediates the particular physiological results of this hormone system.

The task of the HPA axis is regulation by negative feedback mechanisms. Thus, increased cortisol levels repress CRH release by the hypothalamus and ACTH release by the pituitary. In addition, ACTH can straight inhibit hypothalamic CRH release.

Any disturbances in the HPA axis can an outcome in serious clinical consequences. For example, poor hormone manufacturing by the adrenal cortex reasons Addison’s disease, i beg your pardon is defined by muscle weakness, dehydration, loss of appetite (i.e., anorexia), nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain, tiredness, and malaise. Patients v this an illness exhibit low levels of plasma cortisol yet high level of ACTH. The boost in ACTH levels represents a vain attempt by the pituitary to stimulate hormone manufacturing in the unresponsive adrenal cortex.

Equally deleterious is the too much glucocorticoid manufacturing that results from overabundance ACTH release (i.e., Cushing’s syndrome). Those patients endure symptoms such together muscle weakness and wasting, ago pain native osteoporosis, a propensity to bruise easily, redistribution of body fat (i.e., a rounded “moon” face, prominent abdomen, and also thin legs), and various emotional disturbances. Since of the negative feedback system of the HPA axis, the patient’s cortisol levels room high and also the ACTH levels space low.

Both acute and chronic alcohol intake have been shown to activate the HPA axis, and also some drinkers develop a so-called pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome the disappears through abstinence (Veldman and also Meinders 1996; Emanuele and also Emanuele 1997). (For much more information ~ above alcohol’s impact on the HPA axis and also its relationship to alcohol craving, watch the article by Gianoulakis, pp. 202–210.)

The HPG Axis

In both men and women, the HPG axis is the hormone device that controls the release of sex hormones. In both genders, the device is triggered by GnRH, which is released consistently in quick bursts native the hypothalamus. GnRH climate stimulates the release of FSH and also LH from the anterior pituitary.

In men, LH stimulates particular cells in the testes (i.e., Leydig cells) to release testosterone. FSH and testosterone are crucial regulators of another set of testicular cell (i.e., Sertoli cells), i m sorry support and also nourish the sperm cells during their maturation. The HPG axis in guys is regulated with a selection of factors. For example, testosterone is component of a negative feedback system that inhibits GnRH relax by the hypothalamus and also LH relax by the pituitary. In addition, the Sertoli cell secrete a substance referred to as inhibin, which prevents FSH release from the pituitary. Finally, the Leydig cells and, come a lesser extent, the Sertoli cells develop a substance referred to as activin, i beg your pardon stimulates FSH secretion and also thus has the opposite results of inhibin.

In women, during the expression cycle, LH and also FSH stimulate the ovarian follicle that has the maturing egg to produce estradiol. ~ ovulation has actually occurred, LH likewise promotes production of progesterone and also estradiol by the corpus luteum. Both hormones participate in a an unfavorable feedback system through most of the expression cycle, suppressing GnRH release from the hypothalamus and also LH release from the pituitary. Shortly before ovulation, however, a optimistic feedback system is activated whereby estradiol actually boosts LH relax from the pituitary. The result surge in LH levels at some point leads come ovulation, the formation of the body luteum, and also progesterone release. Progesterone exerts a an adverse feedback ~ above LH and also FSH release, causing LH levels to decrease again. In enhancement to those mechanisms, FSH release from the pituitary is regulation by inhibin, a substance developed by details cells in the ovarian follicle.

Both acute and also chronic alcohol intake can interfere with the common functioning of the HPG axis, resulting in diminished fertility or even infertility in both men and women and also in menstrual disturbances in women. (For much more information ~ above alcohol’s results on the HPG axis in women and also men, watch the short articles by Dees and also colleagues, pp. 165–169, and also by Emanuele and Emanuele, pp. 195–201.)

The HPT Axis

The hormone that comprise the HPT axis regulate the metabolic processes of every cells in the body and also are therefore vital for the biology to duty normally. The cheap of TRH from the hypothalamus activates the HPT axis. After getting to the pituitary, TRH stimulates the relax of TSH, which consequently promotes the production and release that T4 and also T3 by the thyroid gland. Negative feed-back results of T4 and T3 top top both the hypothalamus and also the pituitary control the HPT system. (For a review of alcohol’s impacts on the HPT axis, check out sidebar, p. 163.)

One that the crucial hormonal systems regulating normal body functioning is the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis, i beg your pardon controls the line of all cells. Just like other hormone systems, alcohol usage under details conditions have the right to modify the relax of hormones associated in this axis. In healthy nonalcoholics, alcohol consumption does not show up to induce any far-ranging changes in the HPT axis (Emanuele and Emanuele 1997). Conversely, some results of alcohol top top the HPT axis have actually been it was observed in alcoholics. The impacts differ relying on the drinking standing of the alcoholics studied. In alcoholics undergoing withdrawal, baseline level of thyroid hormone (i.e., T3 and T4) in the blood differ only minimally from those in nonalcoholics. The capacity of hypothalamic thyrotropin-releasing hormone (TRH) to activate the release of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) native the pituitary, however, is impaired in this alcoholics (Emanuele and Emanuele 1997). This “blunting” impact may an outcome from alcohol’s influence on the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine developed in the hypothalamus action not just as a neurotransmitter but additionally as a hormone in that it inhibits the release of both TSH and prolactin indigenous the pituitary. Alcohol has been presented to increase dopaminergic activity and thereby may suppress the TSH response to TRH. This theory is supported by the fact that prolactin release in an answer to TRH also is blunted in alcoholics undergoing withdrawal.

Alcohol’s impacts on the HPT axis are also more complex in abstinent alcoholics (Garbutt et al. 1995). In those people, the baseline levels of T3 and also sometimes T4 are reduced than in nonalcoholics. It is unclear, however, if this readjust represents a straight effect of irreversible alcohol consumption or results from co-occurring alcohol-related illnesses, since thyroid hormone levels space often lessened in patients with acute or chronic non-thyroid–related illnesses, such together sepsis, burns, or major trauma. In enhancement to the diminished thyroid hormone levels, however, the TSH solution to TRH stays blunted in abstinent alcoholics, conversely, the prolactin response to TRH has returned to common levels. This observation suggests that a aspect other than dopamine likely contributes to this effect, although the precise mechanisms room unknown.

Finally, some intriguing result have argued that abnormal responses of the HPT axis may represent a marker for a person’s vulnerability come alcoholism. Thus, some human being who room at high danger for developing alcoholism, such together nonalcoholic boy of alcoholic fathers, tend to exhibition a blunted TSH response to TRH (Emanuele and also Emanuele 1997). These observations still require further investigation, however, for researchers to totally understand their significance.

—Susanne Hiller-Sturmhöfel and Andrzej Bartke


The neuroendocrine device is a highly complicated and tightly controlled network the hormones exit by endocrine glands throughout the body. The levels of few of the hormones are regulated in a reasonably straightforward path by the end products that castle influence. Thus, blood street levels mainly regulate insulin and glucagon release by the pancreas. Various other hormones (e.g., those the the HPA, HPG, and HPT axes) are components of hormone cascades whose activities are managed through intricate feedback mechanisms. In addition, many indirect interaction exist between the miscellaneous hormone equipment governing human body functioning. For example, hormone such as GH and thyroid hormone, through their results on to move metabolism, might modify blood street levels and, accordingly, insulin release. Similarly, alcohol’s effects on one hormone system may have actually indirect aftermath for various other systems, in order to contributing come alcohol’s impacts on the to work of essentially every organ in the body. The is crucial to save this interconnectedness that neuroendocrine systems in mental when assessing alcohol’s affect on assorted hormones, i beg your pardon are described in the remaining write-ups in this issue.

1Conversely, exocrine glands (e.g., sweat glands and salivary glands) release their secretions come the outside of the human body (e.g., sweat) or right into a hollow space that is open to the external (e.g., saliva released into the mouth).

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2The corpus luteum is a team of cells obtained from the follicle the releases the ovum throughout a particular menstrual cycle.